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Surgical Instruments Left Inside Patients Often Lead to Serious Health Problems

By Orlando Personal Injury Attorney on October 11, 2012

A recent article in The New York Times tells the story of a 59-year-old nurse in Kentucky who woke one morning to crushing pain in her abdomen. The pain was so debilitating that the woman began to vomit, and she sought immediate medical attention. A CT scan led to a very troubling diagnosis: a surgical sponge left over from a medical procedure years earlier had adhered to her bladder, stomach and abdominal cavity and caused a serious infection that required the removal of a large portion of her intestine. She sued the hospital where the surgery had taken place and won $2.5 million in damages. However, attorneys for the hospital appealed the ruling, and the case is still pending. She now suffers from serious problems with her bowels and is unable to work.

This unfortunate woman is only one of an estimated 4,000 people each year who experience “retained surgical items” after undergoing surgery. Surgical sponges placed in patients’ bodies to soak up blood during surgery comprise the vast majority of these items, and surgeons often use dozens of them during surgery. Experts report that the problem stems from an old-fashioned method of keeping track of items used during surgeries. In most operating rooms, a nurse is in charge of monitoring how many sponges are used. However, operating theaters can occasionally be chaotic, creating the opportunity for sponges and other items to be forgotten inside a patient.

Newer methods have been introduced in recent years to prevent retained items, but many hospitals have resisted implementing them despite support from groups such as the Association of Operating Room Nurses and the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Verna C. Gibbs, a professor of surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, says that this resistance puts patients at elevated risk for serious health problems.

“In most instances, the patient is completely helpless,” said Dr. Gibbs. “We’ve anesthetized them, we take away their ability to think, to breathe, and we cut them open and operate on them. There’s no patient advocate standing over them saying, ‘Don’t forget that sponge in them.’ I consider it a great affront that we still manage to leave our tools inside of people.”

Forgetting a surgical sponge or other item used during a surgery inside a patient is negligent, and patients who suffer health problems as a result have a right to seek damages against those responsible. If you or a loved one is experiencing health problems due to a retained surgical item and you have questions about your rights and legal options, contact Orlando personal injury attorney James O. Cunningham today at 800-425-2004. Mr. Cunningham has been practicing law since 1977 and has a verifiable history of success helping victims of medical malpractice. Call today to get an experienced and aggressive Orlando medical malpractice lawyer on your side!

James O. Cunningham

Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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